lookingOf all the pop records that came out during my formative years, Looking Over My Shoulder made the most impact on me. I anticipated its release for months in advance, and went to the record/hi-fi shop (Aerco in Woking) on the first day they got it in (almost certainly January 7th 1978) – and they were playing it in the shop when I went in. I can still remember the excitement of putting it on for the first time. I played it endlessly to friends and made a few converts, I think. One of the reasons I knew about it in the first place was that the DJ Kenny Everett was also a fan. It’s often forgotten that, while Everett’s unique brand of humour and studio wizardry were legendary, the music was just as important. Chris Rainbow even produced jingles and adverts for London’s Capital Radio, some of the best ever. (I never went to the Thursdays club and know nothing about it, but still remember the jingle!).

A similar excitement happened all over again when in the 2000s the Internet provided a channel to get back in touch with Chris, who for years has run his own Vital Spark music studios on the Isle of Skye in Scotland (producing bands such as Runrig and The River Detectives). Chris raised some money from subscriptions and re-mastered and released most of his back catalogue on CD – before then it had only been available through expensive Japanese imports. That was great – and at one stage Chris hinted that he might record some new material. I’d love to see that happen.

It’s arguable that the first Chris Rainbow album, Home of the Brave (1975), includes some of his strongest songs. But Looking Over My Shoulder established, and more consistently explores, his post-Brian Wilson/Beach Boys style, and includes some of the best multi-tracked vocal textures I’ve heard – including those from the Beach Boys themselves. The record also gets the nostalgic and often regretful sensibility of those songs exactly right: “Show us the Sun” with its heavy sighs and crashing waves, and “Blue Bird”, including impressive saxophone and bass playing underneath the layered vocals, are the standouts for me. “Dear Brian” (a direct tribute to Wilson) has an amazing vocal coda fully worthy of “Surf’s Up” – amazingly it originated from one of those Capital Radio jingles. In future posts (not too frequently, I promise), I’ll highlight some individual songs from across his catalogue, which included one more album of original material, White Trails (1979).

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